By Joe Hakim
November 2, 2010
Pegasus Taverna Comes to St. Clair Shores
Pegasus Taverna Comes to St. Clair Shores
24935 Jefferson Ave, Saint Clair Shores, MI
The Papas family has opened a new Pegasus in St. Clair Shores. From the ambiance to the menu, the SCS Pegasus truly brings Greektown to the east side.
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For nearly 30 years, Pegasus Taverna has been the “go to” place in downtown Detroit’s Greektown. Their mix of friendly atmosphere, made from scratch cooking and affordable prices attracts families, couples and folks just hanging out in Detroit.
That’s a difficult mystique to recreate, but Pegasus has brought its unique menu and atmosphere to St. Clair Shores.
With its bright and welcoming interior, St. Clair Shores’ Pegasus is decorated in a similar fashion to the downtown location — only newer. The ambiance is simultaneously elegant and warm. While we visited, there was a couple on a date, a family of four sharing a meal and a group of 10 ladies who were enjoying food, wine, and company. There for different reasons, each of these tables seemed to belong. Pegasus is ideal for a romantic night out or a large family dinner.
Athina Papas, whose family owns Pegasus, sat down with us as we sampled some traditional Greek fare and talked about the restaurants.
Throughout the course of your visit, you may hear “OPA!” yelled at least a dozen times. Each time a server says opa, that means saganaki has been served. Saganaki ($6) is a thick slice of fried kasseri cheese that is flambéed table side with brandy and extinguished with fresh lemon juice.
Kasseri cheese is delicately sharp. Frying plus flambé equals a piece of charred, gooey cheese that is an ideal companion to the crusty white bread that is served once you’re seated. Lemon juice adds an acidic layer that cuts the overall richness of the cheese.
While there is nothing wrong with Pegasus’ Greek salad (especially when it is topped with marinated octopus), a delightful change of pace is their village salad ($9). This is a lettuce-less salad: fresh tomatoes, green peppers, red onions, cucumbers, and kalamata olives. Bright, crisp, and flavorful, the fresh veggies are not bogged down by the dressing making this salad crisp throughout the entire time you’re eating it.
When asked what their signature dish is, Athina does not hesitate for a second and says, “lamb chops.” It’s no surprise, really, Pegasus is the largest buyer of lamb in Michigan and one of the largest in the midwest. Marinated in a secret blend of spices and olive oil, this is some ridiculously tender and flavorful lamb. Order your chops medium and get ready for some lusciousness.
Extraneous as it may seem, there are side dishes for the lamb. Rice and peas, a traditional Greek side, are done well. Peas are cooked to a point where they melt in your mouth. Rice is fluffy yet still has an al dente bite to it. Their mild flavors do not overpower the lamb in any way, which makes them ideal companions.
Pastistio is the offspring of macaroni and cheese and lasagna with a sprinkling of Mediterranean flavor. Ziti (or a similar pasta) is baked casserole style in a bechamel style sauce with feta cheese and topped with a Greek style tomato sauce. Pastistio is total comfort food. Perfect for a cold evening, the rich, creamy sauce with the al dente pasta is combination that transcends ethnicity. The tomato adds depth of flavor and to the comfort level. There’s something so right about pasta, cheese, and tomato sauce — no matter where you get it.
Even if you’ve eaten saganaki, lamb chops, and pastistio, remember to save room for the loukoumades. This deep-fried dough soaked in honey topped with cinnamon and mixed nuts is truly something to behold. Simultaneously light and satisfying, these little orbs of deliciousness are a perfect end to the meal. Brought to the table piping hot, it is difficult not to burn your mouth. If you’re able to hold off for a minute or two, you’ll bite into a sweet, floral, airy but substantial delight. Do not leave Pegasus without trying loukoumades.
An ideal evening at Pegasus begins with an exciting Saganaki performance. Follow that with a refreshing, hearty Greek salad topped with octopus. Your entree should be lamb chops (of course) cooked medium. If you’re feeling full by this point, skip the rice and peas, and save room for the loukoumades. You will not be disappointed by any part of this meal.
While the menu is nearly identical to the downtown restaurant, the wine list is a totally different animal in St. Clair Shores. Comprised of California, World, and Greek wines, the list is aggressively priced and has been designed to match with the food. If you’re interested in wine pairings, ask your server or talk to Athina.
The menu at Pegasus appears overwhelming. There are many choices to make, but know that nearly every item on the menu comes from a Papas family recipe. Whether you’re enjoying the lamb chops or trying marinated octopus for the first time, rest assured the food will be prepared properly.
Of course, the sheer number of choices on the Pegasus menu also means there is properly something for everyone on the menu. Not only can you visit for nearly any occasion, you’ll also be able to find something to suit nearly any taste. A family owned and operated restaurant with wide appeal, it’s a fantastic combination that has been working for the Papas’ for close to 30 years.
Joe is a food writer and photographer for TheHungryDudes.com. Follow him on twitter: @joefoodie and @thehungrydudes. Check out The Hungry Dudes food photos on Flickr